It has been just over a month since I switched my Linux computers from Gentoo to Fedora. I am happy to report that all is going well. There have been a few issues but these are minor annoyances rather than major problems.
The first problem was with my laptop. Having started using it with Fedora 13 and all being well it focused my mind on moving over to Fedora 14 when it was released. The upgrade was simple and initially all was working perfectly. Over time though the back-light control has stopped working. I can hit the key combination to alter the brightness and the on screen display shows a reduction in level. The back-light brightness itself doesn't change. So currently I have to force the level I want it set to using the command line. This is an issue for me as I tend to type more on the laptop and its easier on the eye to have a screen that is not brilliant white glaring back at me.
The second issue was with my new server. I had selected an AMD/ATI graphics card to use for its low power consumption and had checked its driver compatibility before purchasing. The open source drivers would do 2D only but the closed source drivers would support 3D. Setup notes for using the proprietary driver for older versions of Fedora were easy to find. However notes on setting the driver up for Fedora 14 have only recently been made available. This was a little disappointing as I would have expected something as vital as a graphics driver being updated a lot sooner.
My third issue is more an observation on the structure of the Fedora community. There is an official website but the forums are not officially linked to the project. There is a link on the site indicating its existence but for me the two need to be brought together and make it a central point of information in the same way Gentoo has. The Fedora wiki is more focused on the running of the project rather than the unofficial Gentoo wiki which is a great source of setup guides and instructions. Fedora has its documentation project but form my point of view isn't very useful once the system is up and running with the major services setup. Having tried to find things on the Fedora wiki I quickly gave up. A simple keyword search resulted in pages of irrelevant information. Using Google suddenly becomes the better way of searching it.
So to summarise my experiences with using Fedora have been generally positive. Updates have been easier to apply and fewer things have gone wrong. The result is I have spent more time using my Linux machines and less time trying to fix them. The minor issues with the software will be resolved at some point but I can work around them. More of a concern long term is the community structure. This I believe may cause me at some stage to begin looking around for another distro to try. Gentoo was difficult to leave having used it for so long. Now however, distro hopping is alot easier.
Over the past month I was having a little trouble with Gentoo being difficult to maintain (too many things broke at the same time). I decided to try another distro and after some initial reading decided to try Fedora 13 (64bit). The install on my server went smoothly and I had a working machine in no time. Some minor annoyances however caused me to switch back to Gentoo. The main problem was with Fedora introducing a bug somewhere resulting in my mouse cursor disappearing on resuming from the screen saver. Only a reboot could solve that one. The Fedora forums indicated a problem with my integrated graphics chip but didn't offer a working solution. Added to this was the problem with Firefox plugins. Fedora seemed to get in the way a little and prevent them from working normally. So my server is back on Gentoo and running fine now.
A week later my laptop in Gentoo update hell had been neglected and I had ended up with two big updates causing me dependency issues all over the place. Spending several hours compiling only to find yourself back where you started is not good. So it was time for another distro on the laptop this time. Fedora after my previous experiences was put aside and OpenSUSE 11.3 (64bit) selected, the installer was pleasant enough up until the point where it had installed the packages but hung at the point of configuring the system. Several attempts using difference settings all resulted in the same problem not having a working install. So I cant really say anything about OpenSUSE other than that for such a mainstream distro its very disappointing to not even install. A command prompt at least would have been an acceptable result.
Moving on from the failure of OpenSUSE it was Debian 5.0.5 (64bit). The installer although graphical was a little more basic and not quite as intuitive as Fedora or OpenSUSE but it got the job done and I ended up with a working system. What struck me about Debian was the age of packages included, Gnome being several versions behind most of the other distros. Being mindful of the fact that Debian is designed to be more stable than upto date I was satisfied with it as a distribution and I am considering for my next server box. But for a laptop its not exactly what I was after.
I gave Fedora another chance by installing it on the laptop rather than the server. I was more impressed, no cursor bugs and I managed to sort out my issue with the Firefox plugins. Being more satisfied I had a play about and managed to get the fingerprint reader working. All that was required was a few clicks and a few finger swipes. This was a feature I had never enable with Gentoo due to all the extra hassle of having to set it up manually. So far my experiences with Fedora have been good, its especially good if you just want a working system rather than one which is heavily customised.
I'm always on the lookout for new innovations from the Linux community and today I stumbled across something interesting. Foresight Linux is a relatively new distribution but what differentiates it from the competition is the package manager. In other binary distros upgrading an application involves removing the old package in its entirety and dropping the new one in its place. Foresights Conary package manager takes a different approach and only swaps out the bits which have changed. This makes it more efficient as your saving on the amount of downloading you need to do for a new package.
One of the other benefits Foresight brings is the ability to run a current system without waiting for the new release media. In some ways its like Gentoo without the hassle of compiling everything. It will be going on my list of distros to test when I get some time and I'd suggest anybody looking for an alternative to Ubuntu/Fedora etc. give it a shot.
There is a good initial review here.